After wrapping up a very active year of buzzing between Huila and Putumayo, we returned to the lands of the Guajira Peninsula and Maracaibo Lake to keep sharing and building relationships with our friends in these lands.
We reconnected with the process of Hierba Buena, a very beautiful, inspiring and coherent project. In the Municipality of Mara, we gathered with a group of about 20 people to participate in a workshop to make artisanal soaps, deodorants, and tooth powders. In the Venezuelan context, these workshops are extremely important for reflecting on and putting into practice how to begin to take steps to break away from dependence on oil and the culture of convenience that has plagued this country ever since the first oil well was opened up in the state of Zulia in 1914.
The products that they taught us how to make in this workshop are not only very important because they are homemade, made out of natural or recycled materials, and packaged in reused containers, but because given the problem of the scarcity of products in Venezuela, mostly because of hoarding, but also due to the lack of national production. It is a way for people to put "do it yourself" into practice and avoid the infamous long lines that last for hours and hours in front of supermarkets and pharmacies just to get products like soap and deodorant.
Throughout the afternoon all of the participants took notes and also worked on making these products. The experience was lovely, simple, fun, and everyone took home body soap, laundry soap, tooth powder, and deodorant. These workshops are becoming more and more popular, and we invite anyone who is interested (in Venezuela or Colombia) to get in touch with the wonderful people at Hierba Buena to talk about the possibility of inviting them to do these workshops in other communities.
After the workshop we briefly shared the Mesoamérica Resiste graphics campaign, which gave a solid grounding on how these self-organized processes and homemade products are strategies of resistance in the face of the capitalist machinery that isolates people from the process of making the materials they use and need, and reducing them to consumers.
During our time in the territory of Maracaibo Lake we also shared Mesoamérica Resiste in the María Calcaño Public Library of the state of Zulia. We did two activities at the library. The first day children colored a Mesoamérica Resiste poster while we talked with them about the themes in the graphic. This was a spontaneous methodology that kept the kids interested and participating, so they learned about the issues illustrated in the poster at the same time they were enjoying coloring.
The next day we did a presentation with high school youth and adults who listened attentively while we shared the stories that went into creating the graphics campaign, and they also contributed local stories. One of these stories was from a person who was part of an investigation years ago in the state of Amazonas where they broke up a mafia that was involved with gold mining, logging, and wild animal trafficking, and they talked about how many times the activities that destroy the earth and life happen in areas where impunity reigns.
During this visit there weren't as many opportunities to share the work of the Beehive as in past visits; after 7 years of visiting Zulia to cross-pollinate, on this visit it was really noticeable that community organization and social movements aren't as strong here as they used to be.
These days we see and feel that the situation in Venezuela is more complicated than ever and that many people have the attitude that either the State must fix things or there needs to be some kind of intervention from the outside. Not many people we talked with think that the most difficult situation in the country is "a crisis of values" and that it doesn't matter who is in the government, if the people themselves don't think critically and take control of their own lives and production and culture, things are not going to get better. We hope that the people who are fighters, autonomous, socially-minded and ethical in this sister territory of Colombia can follow the example of processes like Hierba Buena and the Wayuu organization Maikiraalasalii, to put in practice the idea that if you want to change your reality you have to start with changing yourself.We will most likely return to Venezuela in the middle of the year, and we invite individuals, communities, and projects that are interested in sharing with the Beehive Collective and are able to organize workshops to be in touch with us so we can plan ahead. You can contact the bees at firstname.lastname@example.org.